The Stand is a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel written by American author Stephen King and first published in 1978 by Doubleday. The plot centers on a deadly pandemic of weaponized influenza and its aftermath, in which the few surviving humans gather into factions that are each led by a personification of either good or evil and seem fated to clash with each other. King started writing the story in February 1975, seeking to create an epic in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings. The book was difficult for him to write because of the large number of characters and storylines.
|Cover artist||John Cayea|
|Genre||Post-apocalyptic, Dark fantasy|
|October 3, 1978|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|Pages||823 (1,153 in the uncut version)|
In 1990, The Stand was reprinted as The Complete & Uncut Edition. King restored over 400 pages of text that had been removed from his original manuscript, revised the order of the chapters, shifted the novel's setting 10 years forward from 1980 to 1990, and accordingly corrected a number of cultural references. The Complete and Uncut Edition of The Stand is Stephen King's longest stand-alone work at 1,152 pages, surpassing It, a novel of 1,138 pages. The book became a #1 bestseller and sold 4.5 million copies.
The Stand was highly acclaimed by critics and is considered one of King's best novels. It has been included in lists of the best books of all time by Rolling Stone, Time, the Modern Library, Amazon and the BBC. A television miniseries of the same name based on the novel was broadcast on ABC in 1994. From 2008 to 2012, Marvel Comics published a series of comics written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Mike Perkins. Another miniseries debuted on CBS All Access in December 2020, and finished airing in February 2021.
At a Defense Department installation in the Mojave Desert, an extremely deadly and contagious strain of influenza is developed as a biological weapon. The book's extended edition shows that after it is accidentally released at the base, one of the guards manages to escape with his family before the facility can go on lockdown. Every member of the family dies from the virus and their car crashes in Arnette, Texas, where the illness spreads to the locals. Unable to contain the spread of the virus across the country, the U.S. government has its agents unwittingly release it in the Soviet Union and China, causing a fatal pandemic that only 0.6% of the population is mysteriously immune to.
In the chaos following the collapse of civilization, survivors begin having dreams of both kindly centenarian Abagail Freemantle and the terrifying, demonic Randall Flagg, beckoning those that dream of them to come to her home in Nebraska and to Las Vegas, respectively. Stu Redman, a resident of Arnette who had been forcefully taken to a CDC facility in Vermont to be studied, proves to be the only one there immune to the virus. He escapes when the virus gets loose in the facility, meeting and befriending retired sociology professor Glen Bateman and his adopted Irish Setter Kojak, the former of whom is interested to see if humanity can rebuild itself.
Pregnant college student Frannie Goldsmith finds herself one of the only two survivors of Ogunquit, Maine, the other being her best friend's nerdy brother, Harold Lauder, who harbors an unrequited crush on her. They travel to Vermont after Harold learns of the facility and meet Glen and Stu along the way, deciding to go with them after learning the facility is deserted. The group is attacked by several ex-soldiers who keep a drugged harem of women, though they manage to kill them with help from their captives, amongst them Susan Stern and Dayna Jurgens. Stu and Frannie develop a mutual attraction, while Harold begins to hate them both after finding Frannie's writings in her diary disparaging him.
Narcissistic singer Larry Underwood migrates from New York City with Rita Blakemoor, an older woman he develops a relationship with, but is left traumatized after she dies in her sleep from an overdose. He eventually meets virgin schoolteacher Nadine Cross and "Joe", the feral boy she watches over, and he becomes a father figure to the latter, though Nadine rejects his advances when he tries to sleep with her. They meet housewife Lucy Swann, who Larry begins a relationship with instead.
Deaf-mute drifter Nick Andros is brutally beaten in Arkansas before the pandemic begins, and the friendly sheriff that helps him jail the attackers dies of the virus. Nick is attacked again by his one surviving attacker, who almost blinds him before Nick manages to shoot and kill him. He meets intellectually disabled Tom Cullen in Oklahoma, who saves Nick's life when he senses and warns Nick of a tornado sent by Flagg coming towards them. They meet teenage Julie Lawry, who accosts and has sex with Nick, but he forces her out when she continually demeans Tom and she tries to kill them. While fleeing from her, they are met and befriended by farmer Ralph Brentner.
Flagg rescues imprisoned spree killer Lloyd Henreid and makes him his lieutenant. After burning down Gary, Indiana, schizophrenic pyromaniac Donald "Trashcan Man" Elbert heads to Las Vegas to meet Flagg, but crosses paths with a psychopathic outlaw known as "The Kid" in the extended edition. He drives Trashcan Man west to meet Flagg, but also rapes him with his gun and repeatedly entertains the idea of killing him. After the Kid declares his intent to kill and replace Flagg, Trashcan Man pledges himself to Flagg and wolves appear, trapping the Kid in his car. Trashcan Man leaves the Kid to die and arrives in Las Vegas, where he briefly considers holding onto his humanity before instead helping Flagg's followers crucify a drug addict.
Nick's group arrives in Nebraska first and they help move Abagail to Boulder, Colorado, where they establish the democratic "Boulder Free Zone". As Stu and Larry's groups arrive, they, as well as Ralph, Nick, Frannie, Glen and Susan, are chosen as the town's temporary committee, while Stu is also elected as the Zone's marshal. Abagail, believing she has been too prideful watching the Zone grow in size, goes into self-imposed exile. The committee decides to send three spies to Las Vegas to gather information, choosing elderly Richard "The Judge" Farris and Dayna. Nick and Ralph realize Tom is susceptible to hypnosis and suggest giving him a post-hypnotic suggestion to enter believing he was kicked out of Boulder and leave Las Vegas when he sees the full moon.
Harold begins to build a likable public image, but still holds a grudge towards Stu and Frannie and is angry about being left off the committee at Nick's recommendation. He is given the nickname "Hawk" by his coworkers and begins to consider becoming a happier person, but his pre-pandemic life as an outcast makes him doubt the people's genuine like of him. Abagail's presence heals Joe, who realizes his real name is Leo Rockway and begins to spend less time with Nadine. Desperate, she tries to have sex with Larry, but he rebuffs her and she instead begins a sexual relationship with Harold, though she saves her virginity for Flagg. Together they plan to kill the committee with a bomb, but on the day of the attempt, the members are distracted by a weakened Abagail returning and only Nick and Susan are killed.
Harold and Nadine flee while Abagail tells Stu, Larry, Glen and Ralph that they need to make a "stand" against Flagg before dying. Flagg causes Harold's motorcycle to crash and he falls over the edge of a cliff, severely breaking his leg and being left to die by Nadine. As his leg turns gangrenous, he realizes the harm he has done, writes an apologetic note signed "Hawk" and commits suicide. Flagg meets Nadine in the desert, raping and impregnating her while revealing his true demonic form, an experience that leaves her semi-catatonic.
Trashcan Man has a psychotic episode and torches Flagg's air force before he is able to destroy Boulder, leaving to go find a more powerful weapon to atone. Farris is killed in Oregon in a gunfight with Flagg's men. Dayna arrives in Las Vegas, at one point noticing Tom. Flagg senses her presence and realizes she knows who the third spy is, but she manages to kill herself before he can torture her. Julie recognizes Tom and reports him to Lloyd, but the full moon rises and Tom leaves before Flagg can catch him. The idea that Tom was under his nose unsettles Flagg, and Nadine uses this to goad him into killing her and their child.
Stu breaks his leg in Utah while traveling to Las Vegas, fulfilling Abagail's prediction that only three of the chosen would make the full journey. Kojak stays with Stu, while the other three are detained by Flagg's men upon arrival. Flagg forces Lloyd to kill Glen when he mocks him, while Ralph and Larry are set to be publicly executed by dismemberment. Flagg kills one of his followers with a ball of lightning when he protests the barbaric display, which begins to ascend and gather mass. Trashcan Man drives a nuclear warhead he has found to the execution, which the lightning ball (which Ralph calls "the Hand of God") shoots towards. Flagg panics and vanishes while the Hand detonates the warhead, destroying Las Vegas.
Tom finds Stu close to death, but a verbal apparition of Nick leading to a supply of antibiotics saves his life. After nursing him back to health and helping his leg heal, the two travel back to Boulder, where Frannie has given birth to her son after a caesarean section. She names the baby after her late father. The baby manages to recover from a brief bout of superflu, and Stu agrees to raise him as his son. Four months later, Lucy has given birth to Larry's twins and Stu, disquieted with the rapidly increasing size of the Zone and the new marshal's insistence on arming his deputies, agrees to move with Frannie back to Ogunquit for a while. As they travel and spend the day at Abagail's old home, he contemplates his son's future in a world possibly free of war and asks Frannie if "people ever learn anything." She contemplates, then responds "I don't know."
In the extended edition's epilogue, Flagg, now believing his name to be "Russell Faraday", awakens on a beach. He is approached by a tribe of men with spears and quickly establishes leadership over them, planning to use them for his own gain. As he laughs triumphantly, the novel ends with the sentences, "Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again."
In Danse Macabre, King writes about the origins of The Stand at some length. One source was Patty Hearst's case. The original idea was to create a novel about the episode because "it seemed that only a novel might really succeed in explaining all the contradictions".
The author also mentions George R. Stewart's novel Earth Abides, which describes the odyssey of one of the last human survivors after the population is nearly annihilated by a plague, as one of the main inspirations:
With my Patty Hearst book, I never found the right way in... and during that entire six-week period, something else was nagging very quietly at the back of my mind. It was a news story I had read about an accidental CBW spill in Utah. (...) This article called up memories of a novel called Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart.
(...) and one day while sitting at my typewriter, (...) I wrote—just to write something: The world comes to an end but everybody in the SLA is somehow immune. Snake bit them. I looked at that for a while and then typed: No more gas shortages. That was sort of cheerful, in a horrible sort of way.
The Stand was also planned by King as an epic The Lord of the Rings–type story in a contemporary American setting:
For a long time—ten years, at least—I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting. I just couldn't figure out how to do it. Then . . . after my wife and kids and I moved to Boulder, Colorado, I saw a 60 Minutes segment on CBW (chemical-biological warfare). I never forgot the gruesome footage of the test mice shuddering, convulsing, and dying, all in twenty seconds or less. That got me remembering a chemical spill in Utah, that killed a bunch of sheep (these were canisters on their way to some burial ground; they fell off the truck and ruptured). I remembered a news reporter saying, 'If the winds had been blowing the other way, there was Salt Lake City.' This incident later served as the basis of a movie called Rage, starring George C. Scott, but before it was released, I was deep into The Stand, finally writing my American fantasy epic, set in a plague-decimated USA. Only instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg. The land of Mordor ('where the shadows lie,' according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas.
While writing The Stand, King nearly stopped because of writer's block. Eventually, he reached the conclusion that the heroes were becoming too complacent, and were beginning to repeat all the same mistakes of their old society. In an attempt to resolve this, he added the part of the storyline where Harold and Nadine construct a bomb, which explodes in a Free Zone committee meeting, killing Nick Andros, Chad Norris, and Susan Stern. Later, Mother Abagail explains on her deathbed that God permitted the bombing because He was dissatisfied with the heroes' focus on petty politics, and not on the ultimate quest of destroying Flagg. When telling this story, King sardonically observed that the bomb saved the book, and that he only had to kill half of the core cast to do this.
Publication history edit
The novel was originally published in 1978 in hardcover, with a setting date of 1980, in abridged form. The first paperback release in 1980 changed the setting date to 1985. The novel marks the first appearance of Randall Flagg, King's recurring antagonist, whom King would bring back several times in his later writings.
|Cover artist||John Cayea|
In 1990, an unabridged edition of The Stand was published, billed as The Complete and Uncut Edition. Published in hardcover by Doubleday in May 1990, this became the longest book published by King at 1,152 pages. When the novel was originally published in 1978, Doubleday warned King that the book's size would make it too expensive for the market to bear.
As a result, he cut about 400 pages (around 150,000 words) from the original manuscript. This edition reinstates most of the deletions (as selected by King) and updates the setting from the 1980s to the 1990s. This new edition features a new preface by King and illustrations by Bernie Wrightson. Doubleday published a deluxe edition of The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition, limited to 1,250 numbered copies and 52 lettered copies. This edition, known as the "Coffin Box" edition due to the book being housed in a wooden case, was signed by King and Wrightson.
The Stand received critical acclaim; it was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1979, and was adapted into both a television miniseries for ABC and a graphic novel published by Marvel Comics. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 53 on the BBC's The Big Read poll.
A film adaptation of The Stand was in development hell for over 10 years. During the 1980s, Stephen King had planned a theatrical film, with George A. Romero directing and himself writing, not trusting anybody else with the project. In the 1995 Complete and Uncut edition of the book, King admitted he had in mind a few fan castings for his characters, those being Robert Duvall as Randall Flagg, and Marshall Crenshaw as Larry Underwood. However, writing a workable screenplay proved difficult, due to the novel's length. King talked about adapting it for television, but was informed that the television networks did not "want to see the end of the world, particularly in prime time." Eventually King allowed screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg, who was a fan of The Stand, to write his own adaptation of the novel. Pallenberg's script would clock the film in at close to three hours, while still staying true to the novel. Everyone liked the script; however, just as it was about to finally come together, Warner Bros. backed out of the project.[unreliable source?]
ABC eventually offered Stephen King the chance to make The Stand into an eight-hour miniseries. King wrote a new screenplay (toned down slightly for television). The miniseries was broadcast in 1994, directed by Mick Garris, and starred such actors as Gary Sinise, Adam Storke, Molly Ringwald, Corin Nemec, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Laura San Giacomo, Jamey Sheridan, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Bill Fagerbakke, and Shawnee Smith, with notable cameos including John Landis, Ed Harris, Kathy Bates, Sam Raimi, and King himself. Parts of the miniseries were shot in Las Vegas, Nevada as well as Salt Lake City, Utah State Prison, Sundance, Orem, Provo Canyon, and Salina in Utah.
Between 2011 and 2016, Warner Bros. Pictures and CBS Films were developing a feature-length film adaptation of The Stand. In August 2011, director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves, known for their collaboration on the Harry Potter films, were hired to direct/write a multimovie version of The Stand, but left the project in October 2011, as Yates felt it would work better as a miniseries. Both Ben Affleck and Scott Cooper dropped out over creative differences with the studio. On February 25, 2014, Josh Boone was hired to write and direct the adaptation. He later revealed that he wanted Christian Bale to play Randall Flagg and Matthew McConaughey for the role of Stu Redman.
By September 10, 2014, the script had been completed and pre-production was underway. In November, Boone planned to split his adaptation into four full-length feature films in an effort to remain true to the breadth of King's sprawling novel. In June 2015, Warner Bros. proposed an eight-part Showtime miniseries to set up the story, which would culminate in Josh Boone's film. However, in February 2016, The Stand project was put on hold and the rights reverted to CBS Films.
In September 2017, King talked of doing an extended TV series on Showtime or CBS All Access. In January 2019, a 10-hour limited series was ordered by CBS Television Studios to be broadcast on CBS All Access. Alexander Skarsgard, James Marsden, Amber Heard, Whoopi Goldberg, Greg Kinnear, Odessa Young, and Henry Zaga were all in consideration for the roles of Randall Flagg, Stu Redman, Nadine Cross, Mother Abagail, Glen Bateman, Frannie Goldsmith, and Nick Andros, respectively. The production was filmed in and near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from September 2019 to March 2020; filming was completed a few days before it would have been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The production features Stephen King's son Owen King as a producer and writer, and a new ending written by Stephen King. The miniseries was first broadcast in December 2020, to mixed reviews.
Marvel Comics adapted The Stand into a series of six five-issue comic book miniseries. The series was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Mike Perkins. Colorist Laura Martin, letterer Chris Eliopoulos, and cover artist Lee Bermejo were also on the staff. The first issue of The Stand: Captain Trips was released on September 10, 2008.
The Alarm had a song on the 1984 album Declaration entitled "The Stand (Prophecy)" as an homage to the book. The song contained certain lyrics directly related to the book, such as "I met the walking dude, religious, with his worn out cowboy boots", and "Hey Trashcan, where you going boy?" The main chorus of the song was "Come on down and meet your maker, come on down and make the stand."
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